2007 recap: 10 disappointing albums

By • Dec 20th, 2007 • Category: Columns

Disappointing does not mean bad. One more time – disappointing does not mean bad.

With that out of the way, it’s true that calling something “disappointing” usually implies a poor product. But that’s not always the case. (See No. 9 on the list). The same way that saying a record/band is “overrated” also does not necessarily mean it’s bad.

For a plethora of reasons, not every album can be Earth-shattering. Whether it’s disappointing because the pre-release expectations were too high or the quality of the product just isn’t very good. Both the artist and the fan can be to blame for the let down. Either way, there always are releases each year that unexpectedly leave a void in the music universe.

So without further adieu … Ten disappointing albums from 2007

10. “Hang Love” (Modart)
Burning Brides
Released: April 24

The last bit of retro garage has been stripped away from this Philadelphia trio. While the band’s first two albums split time between raunchy blues hooks and cocksure stoner rock, this third LP plays itself into a glossy, faux-metal corner.

9. “Icky Thump” (Warner Bros.)
White Stripes
Released: June 19

Although the sixth LP from Jack and Meg White is far from their worst, it’s far from their best, too. It’s not just because this is an average White Stripes record that makes it a disappointment. The reason it falls short is because, until now, you could bank on at least two great songs per Stripes output. Even the band’s weakest albums had a pair of spectacular tunes. But “Icky Thump” is completely baron of a standout song, but thankfully it lacks any awful ones, as well.

8. “Happiness, Ltd.” (WEA/Warner)
Hot Hot Heat
Released: Sept. 3

Hot Hot Heat used to have an overwhelming sense of urgency about it. The Canadian group’s early EPs and first few full-lengths sounded like a band that not only had an edge, but was on an edge. Not anymore. Today’s HHH is a cautious, simplistic, middle-of-the-road pop ensemble afraid to take chances. Instead of still sounding like revival of new wave’s heyday, “Happiness, Ltd.” reeks of the cheese ball copycatting that ruined the genre the first time around.

7. “Have Mercy” (Elixia/Templar)
Mooney Suzuki
Released: June 19

It took two record labels, three years, a few guitarists and the death of a family member to get Mooney Suzuki’s fourth LP released. Maybe all that turmoil left primary songwriter Sammy James Jr. exhausted. Because other than the opening track, “99%,” these dozen songs are an uninspired collection of wilting, thoughtless rock ditties that don’t, in fact, rock in any way. Instead of sounding like a throwback to 70s proto punk, James sounds more like what that decade’s rockstars might sound like today if they tried getting on stage.

6. “Some Loud Thunder” (Wichita)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Released: Jan. 29

Brooklyn’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is close to wrestling two distinctions away from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead. The two bands are neck-and-neck for ridiculously cumbersome monikers. They also both continually trick people into believing their albums will be good, with an unavoidable swarm of anticipation preceding each album. But just like this collection of almost unlistenable false starts, CYHSY never really figures out where it’s going or what type of music it wants to play to get there.

5. “Traffic and Weather” (Virgin)
Fountains of Wayne
Released: April 3

It seems like a lifetime ago that Fountains of Wayne was possibly the greatest power-pop band on the planet. Now those cleverly turned phrases have become predictable and lowbrow. The catchy choruses are straight out of “Writing Radio Hits for Dummies.” What used to be a passionate appreciation for guitar pop’s lineage sounds calculated and cold. A band that used to ooze emotion remains soulless and superficial.

4. “Even If It Kills Me” (Epitaph)
Motion City Soundtrack
Released: Sept. 18

It would be easy to blame the glossy production of the band’s abysmal third LP on its new production team of Ric Ocasek and Adam Schlesinger. Especially given the recent missteps from Schlesinger’s band (see above), but it would be hard to place the fault on Ocasek – the former Cars front man responsible for the best Weezer and Nada Surf albums. What is certain, is the pop-punk spark and grit got lost somewhere along MSC’s nonstop tour schedule. The band is patching up the chinks in its Epitaph armor with overwhelming moog and too much ProTools polish.

3. “In Between” (Mute)
Paul van Dyk
Released: Aug. 14

As one of the world’s biggest names and largest drawing acts, the German trance dj has perfected making 80,000 person open-air festivals sound like atmospheric clubs. But on the legendary performer’s 2007′s release, his over-reliance on guest vocals leaves the 17 songs sounding too much like Bravo channel theme-songs and less like driving dance beats. Nothing sounds endearing, as if each track should be bumping back from a commercial break instead of blaring to tens of thousand dancing fans.

2. “Sky Blue Sky” (Nonesuch)
Released: May 15

Wilco members finally have realized that they’re old. Middle age has lurked beneath Jeff Tweedy’s surface for a few years now, and it appears to have settled in embarrassingly. A half-decade removed from the band’s masterful paring of “Summerteeth” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” and a genre away from its alt-country bar anthems, “Sky Blue Sky” is an unassuming fusion of jazz guitar and light FM that doesn’t age well.

1. “Finding Forever” (Geffen)
Released: July 31

This album’s cover couldn’t be more fitting – a confused, airbrushed version of the Chicago rapper that appears to be floating somewhere in another galaxy. The art suffers for the same reasons as the music. Common always has been a down-to-Earth performer, but for the first time sounds arrogant and unaware of his place in rap’s lexicon.

Northwest Herald, Dec. 20, 2007

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